I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Canada (6)


Oh Canada! Oh Frank! Oh Heck!




We began the day with a series of bridges, gantries, tolls and suchlike, because our plan was to visit Niagara Falls, and we felt the best viewing place was over the border in Canada.




It’s not actually that far and with passports, EESTA forms, proof of our return flights home and anything else an Immigration Officer might request to see, we negotiated our way through it all.




Just when we thought we’d made it, there was yet another set of signs and choices to be made.  Not to mention a grumpy Canadian Immigration Officer who wanted to know the answers to several questions including why we were here, why we visit the USA so often, when we were going home and had we any firearms or alcohol with us?




At last.  We were in Canada.




We weren’t interested in all the hokum and tacky stuff downtown, like Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Louis Tussauds Waxworks – we just wanted to see the falls.  So, parking the car in a convenient if pricey place just across the road from the water, we got out our cameras and off we went.  The American Falls were looking lovely.




Right on cue, the Maid of the Mist chugged past and we all agreed, we really didn’t want to get wet.  We’d view the falls from terra firma, thank you.




A little further along the pathway, the Horseshoe Falls came into view.  There were quite a few people here already, though at least on this Monday morning we could easily find space to take our pictures.




We went a little further along the pathway, getting a bit closer to the falls, though by now were all reaching the conclusion that we’d more or less seen what we had come to see, however breathtakingly spectacular it is.




We were all very pleased we’d decided to stay dry!




Though, even here, we were getting a bit damp!  Perhaps it was time to return to the car?




Just before we do, we’ll take a quick look at the nightmare hotel where we stayed on our last visit here – the white tower in the centre of the photo.  Though I was blogging in August 2006, I didn’t make any mention of our visit to Niagara, nor did I mention the scary fire alarm when we were on the 31st floor of that tower.  It is, however, one of my most read reviews on Trip Advisor!




We jumped in the car and headed back to the bridge.




The traffic was moving s-l-o-w-l-y, as the immigration process was taking time.  At one point, those in the front of the car were in the USA and my mobile art studio was still in Canada!




Over by the Maid of the Mist jetty and viewing platform, we could see that there could well be some interesting views from the American side.  Should we go and see?




Well, this was taking such an age, perhaps it’d be better to simply press on and see something else on our wishlist?  First though, we had to run the gauntlet of the snarky US immigration guy, determined as he was to belittle us before allowing us a grudging re-entry.




We took refuge in a fast food restaurant and ate lunch with a fascinating show going on outside, as a woman look a liking to a pile of carpet remnants on the pavement.  Reinforcements were soon on hand and others decided they’d like a piece of the carpet, too.




We needed to move to a more worthwhile location and thankfully, one such place was within a couple of miles.  Frank Lloyd Wright had designed and built this house for Darwin Martin and his family and before we’d even set foot on the site we were happy!




It’s said to be the finest example of his Prairie designs and the more we saw, the more we loved it.  The planting was exquisite, the details stunning – as in any FLW structure, every tiny detail had been considered and perfectly resolved.

Sadly, no photographs inside the house so the pictures on the website will have to do!




Rather than return to the hotel and go out to supper later, this evening we decided to drop by the Anchor Bar for some original Buffalo Wings on the way back.




The menu was extensive but of course, we ordered buffalo wings – and Anchor home fries, and some boneless chicken wings  for me, who doesn’t particularly like gnawing on skin and bones!




The trouble is, the portions are so huge that even when we’d finished, we’d hardly left our mark on those plates.

Oh heck!




Our last day here in Montreal was quite a surreal experience. 




It started in our ordinary, quiet sort of way.  We met Nadine and decided we’d spend Saturday morning on Rue Laurier, pottering about this little neighbourhood like ordinary Montrealers, stopping for coffee when we felt like it.  Though it’s fun to see the “sights” in a city, sometimes (and especially after two weeks of doing such things) it’s good to assume some kind of normality; to share a bit of ordinary routine in a place.




We were especially taken with the outside staircases which are so very characteristic of the city.  Here, there are four front doors, each to a different apartment in the same building.  I always think that having one’s own front door is important: Montreal was built for people like me!




After a little mooch along this smart street, filled with lovely independent shops selling beautiful kitchenware, shoes and things for the home, it was surely coffeetime?



We perched, the four of us in a line along the window of the patisserie and watched the world go by.




We chatted about how the view opposite didn’t really feel North American at all and wouldn’t have been out of place in a French town.

(As we were thinking that, a chap left the patisserie with a baguette under his arm, as if to confirm that very thought)




Yes, of course we passed comment on the dress standards of those who passed by, not to mention the ability  (or lack thereof) to park a car efficiently.

We can only hope that our comments couldn’t be heard through the glass!

Before we left, we needed some group photos, so we persuaded Mark to step outside with our cameras and we posed for some silly shots, entertaining the passers by as we did.




No, this isn’t a member of our family, but Victor, the mascot of the comedy festival which reaches its conclusion tonight.  He was walking in front of the first slightly surreal event of the day.




This was the Twins Parade, when 500 pairs of (mostly) identical twins walked through the city centre, on their way to the Annual Twins Ball.




Twins of all ages carried their portraits in what Mark declared, a slightly creepy experience.




It was a challenge to take photographs since three of Montreal’s most statuesque women were working as stewards and standing right in front of us.




But occasionally, those in the parade were happy to pose, especially the young women, who seemed to be enjoying the occasion most of all.




In the evening, Nadine had booked a table at The F Bar, a portuguese brasserie adjacent to the main Comedy Festival venue.  We enjoyed delicious food with the added bonus of the festival sideshow.




Sensing a buildup to some kind of finale outside, our waitress explained that a Human Cannonball act was going to take place shortly.  Dessert was ordered as we stepped outside to observe this spectacle!  Sure enough, the chap climbed inside the cannon, the crowd counted down “quatre, trois, deux, un…” and pouf, he was propelled high into the air to land safely in the net high above the crowd.




He took his bow and spectacle over, we returned to the dessert business and savoured our crispy-crunchy choco-coffee gelato, our natas with sorbet and rice pudding with anis-pear sorbet and red fruits.

The crowd walked home and we followed on a little later, bidding Nadine a fond farewell and promising to get together again soon.

A bientot, Montreal!!


Elegant company



With only the briefest stop at the Sanctuaire Notre Dame du Cap , where the stained glass windows were incredibly beautiful, we drove straight to Montreal.




Our lovely friend here is Nadine, who wears the most fantastic shoes and is the most elegant and gracious guide.  Oscar the poodle’s loss is our gain!




The artwork on the street is interesting and eye catching.




Some could be described as quirky.




Sometimes we have to stop and smile.




Across a busy dual carriageway, this lovely painting caught our eye immediately.




By this time, we were getting hungry but Nadine knew just the spot for a perfect summer Friday lunchtime.  A little music, lush greenery and lively conversation with friends around a shady table in the garden: what more could we wish for?




Leaving Nadine to go home to dear Oscar the Poodle, we set off to explore a little more of the city and loved the glimpses of silvery domes in the Old Town




and the contrast between old and new.




We had to stop and take photographs of this great bronze “Les Chuchoteuses” (the gossips).  Such characters!




Negotiating the road works was a challenge at times and we thought the city strangely quiet considering its size.  This was a Friday afternoon, after all.




But then, we discovered the Underground City!


We’d arranged to meet Nadine for dinner and were delighted to discover that the restaurant was only doors away from shoe heaven.  Well, at least two of us were thrilled ;-)




There followed a brief “shoe shuffle” with the assistance of the delightful Marie-Helene whose patience was remarkable but not unrewarded.




Dinner, of course, was divine.





We can’t help ourselves but take photographs of the lovely things which surround us here.




Mark’s patience is tried as Mary and I make frequent stops to capture another little treasure.




They are so beautifully displayed with flair and imagination.  But of course, there’s a world out there to discover and it’s no good hanging around here all day ;-)




The Montmorency Falls are to be found just up the road and we headed there this morning.  We chose to forego the opportunity of walking over the bridge in favour of viewing the falls from a more solid walkway.




One of us finds climbing too many stairs a challenge, so sadly (!) we had to forego the chance to take this route to view the falls as well.

Did you hear me sigh with relief?




We’d got quite a list of waterfalls to visit today, and the “Sept Chutes” was the next location along the way.  Here, it wasn’t so easy to get up close and we contented ourselves with viewing just five of them from a picnic spot in the woods.




Third and final waterfall stop was the Canyon Ste Anne, where the woman in the ticket office reassured us that it was an easy, flat walk around the pathways.




She didn’t mention that bridge.




There might have been more challenging ways of getting across the canyon but believe me, walking across that narrow, swinging, bouncing, wooden footway which had gaps in between the planks was frightening enough for me.

No, I didn’t stop to take a photo.

Yes, my knees were shaking by the time I reached the other side!


We made a short stop on the way home to visit the Jerusalem Cyclorama, adding another panorama to our collection.  Though beautifully painted, we felt that the area in between the viewing platform and the painted canvas was not so well integrated as other panoramas have been.  The figures were two dimensional and blended into the scene less effectively than, say, those in the Sevastopol panorama.  Nevertheless, the spectacle was as stunning as we’d hoped and finished our day’s sightseeing off nicely.


To Montreal tomorrow.  A bientot Nadine!


A fine city



We are enjoying our few days in Quebec tremendously.  Our hotel is so stylish with visual stimulation around every corner.  We have yet to spell out anything from the letters on the carpet but can’t help reading them every time we walk along the corridor.




Loving colour as much as I do, I was particularly captivated by the arrangement of apples on a tray in the lobby, the colours of which matched the furnishings perfectly.  Gorgeous.




The visual stimulation doesn’t stop at the hotel door, either.  Here, outside a perfectly ordinary shop in the old town, there’s a fantastic pair of planters with colour to make the heart sing.




In fact, throughout the old town, we find ourselves taking hundreds of photographs, all three of us!




Little windows in stone walls, begging to be captured and taken home.




Little flower filled streets, at this time of the morning, peaceful and empty.




Of course, that soon changes.  Street musicians entertain us, though this one amused too, in his 17th century French dress, playing Abba hits.  Strangely, the music carried on as he stopped to take the money from someone buying a CD!




But really, walking along the Terrasse Dufferin boardwalk, high above the river, it’s easy to imagine we are back in Victorian times.




When life was as gracious and relaxed as we are.